Burning foliage, crumbled walls, and smashed towers. Embers were blowing around in the wind, highlighting the vast, and now barren, landscape. The piles of stone and glass that were once walls and towers were spattered with blood. Bodies, some dead, others in pieces, and some just barely breathing, covered the ground in large, smoldering, heaps. There were other bodies too, but not human ones, and not nearly as many. These were the corpses of some of the most feared beasts to walk this land and the land beneath ours.
These strange creatures were horrific. They took your worst nightmare and turned it into something worse than even that, they knew your deepest insecurities and used it to lure you in, to trap you, to freeze you in place with fear. And while some would rip you to pieces within seconds, others would take their time, making you suffer until your last breath. You would have to be an unlucky soul to have run into one of those, as only a select few of these creatures were intelligent, the rest had minds of a beast, and all they knew was to kill.
The creatures were ripping down the stone wall that protected the last standing tower. The kingdoms warriors were fighting valiantly to protect the tower, to hold off these monsters for as long as they could, and strength did it take to keep your worst fear at bay. But it was to no avail. They were being slaughtered like pigs.
In the tower, two people stood, a man, and a woman. One of the windows in the tower had no glass and was broken at the edges. The couple walked over, hand in hand, to gaze at the damage and destruction done to their kingdom with solemnity. They watched as their warriors were slaughtered as the never-ending line of vile beasts ran up the side of the hill. Waiting to feed on the flesh of not only their people but their own dead as well.
At a distance, they saw a figure cloaked in black, standing on the crest of the hill as more of the horrific brutes surged past it, racing to reach the tower, its garrison already destroyed. In one swift move, the figure turned and was enveloped in shadows, then disappeared. The couple turned and looked at each other, the betrayal written on their faces. They turned and walked over to a basket on the floor. In it, was a newborn child, not even a day old. The lady put her hand on the side of the child’s head and half-smiled. The man knelt beside her, looked at the child then looked back at the woman, aggrieved. He then stood with newfound confidence and started pacing the room, not yet ready to yield to the monstrosities that surrounded the tower. The child started to cry as the roars of the monsters could be heard getting nearer and nearer. The lady gently patted the child’s head and started humming a random, yet comforting tune.
The child quieted and stared in wonder at the lady as she continued to hum the unknown melody. When she stopped, the man had walked back over to them and put his arm around her shoulders. He let out a sigh, looked sad for a fleeting moment, then set his shoulders back and said,
” This is it; this is where we make our last stand, but we can still ensure that she lives to fight another day.”
The lady sighed and looked at him with determination, her thoughts far off as she wondered how they had gotten here.
” Yes, but who knows what may happen to her wherever she ends up.” She looked back down at her daughter and said more to herself than her husband,” May she have the strength to fight through any obstacle she may yet face.”
The queen then pulled a vial out of her dress and just stared at it. In it, was a liquid glowing with a soft yellowish light. She had brewed it a few moons ago, not knowing what fate awaited them, not knowing if they would ever even need it. The tower shook even harder, as the creatures knocked down the blockades on the way to the top of the tower. They heard them getting closer and they slowly stood, trying to savor their last moments with not only themselves but their child as well.
“They’re here,” The king said, his resolve stronger than ever,” it is our time, but not yet hers, send her through.”
The lady pulled the cork out of the bottle and swirled the contents around before throwing them at the wall. From where the potion hit, a small, swirling, yellow portal opened.
“Now we say our goodby-”
There was a pounding on the door as the beasts tried to break it down. Both of their heads whipped around to look at the door, then back at each other, they thought they had more time, even if only a minute more. This was too fast, but they had no choice if their child were to survive.
“We need to hold them back until the portal closes.” She said urgently.
The man looked at her, then back to the door. The wood was starting to crack, and the iron strips were bending. Time was running out, and fast.
His gaze then fell on the chest to the side of the room. He strode over to it and threw it open, inside were some old weapons, a dull mace, a cracked shield, and two blunt swords. He gazed at them with dismay before taking them out. They had to give their child time to escape and time for the portal to close, so the creatures could not follow, and if this was all they had, they would have to make do. If they were to follow and get into the other world, all their effort would have been in vain. The lady quickly picked the child up and hurried over to the portal.
“I am so sorry my little one, you must go now, without us.”
She placed the child in front of the portal and laid a small kiss on her forehead. She placed a note bearing only her name in the blanket. The king strode back to his queens’ side, handing her the two swords, before turning and facing the door, preparing for the worst.
Then, the door was busted open, and the creatures came flooding in. The man let out a war cry and leaped into action, slaughtering the creatures one by one. The queen grasped a sword in one hand and used the other to start pushing their child through the portal, a single tear streaking down her face.
“Good-bye, my child, my love, my little Phoenix.”
But she did not see the shadow that slipped through their defenses, and into the portal before it closed.